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I would like to know why questions can be closed in general; it just occurred to me that even if the question does not make sense to you, there is no reason to close it and prevent it from ever being answered by someone else. What is the point of closing questions?

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    $\begingroup$ That's indeed two questions: whether questions can be closed in general, and whether your question is closed correctly after someone edited it. These two questions could have different answers. $\endgroup$ Feb 14 at 15:05
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    $\begingroup$ Well, isn't it obvious that some questions should be closed? That's say if the question is not about math at all, then it should be closed and later deleted right? When a question is closed, the close reason is given and the OP can edit and get it reopened. $\endgroup$ Feb 14 at 15:09
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    $\begingroup$ ..... because we have standard? $\endgroup$ Feb 14 at 15:11
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    $\begingroup$ The internet tried sites where there was no option to close questions. Read about usenet newsgroups (later Google designed a frontend to the system, with the result that a large number of people thought they were on something called "Google groups", when in fact Google only gave them access to a server). A math related newsgroup became totally useless after a few years. Exactly because everybody was allowed to ask about anything. The last few weeks I checked out the site may be 90% of the traffic was about a few loonies claiming that they have prove Fermat's Last, Collatz or some such $\endgroup$ Feb 14 at 15:15
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    $\begingroup$ The same thing happened in many other newsgroups. Some people will choose not to behave. That is why SE will not allow sites without closures and deletions of unfit material. That is why veterans will continue to vote to close and delete. Even in the face of other veterans use the site as a free ride ego trip (either about points or some other motive, but nevertheless ignoring the rules). $\endgroup$ Feb 14 at 15:17
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    $\begingroup$ If we do not nip that in the bud, then 93 out of 100 posts on the site will be about totally misguided proofs, rebuttals to such, bickering rebuttals of the rebuttals etc. Never mind the more modern closure reasons we developed for this site. Largely about attempts to outsource homework. For short - we tried that, it did not work. IT WAS HELL. Anyone who knew any math left the site. letting it die a natural death. We will not allow that to happen here. NEVER. $\endgroup$ Feb 14 at 15:29
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    $\begingroup$ One word. TROLLS. $\endgroup$ Feb 14 at 15:30
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    $\begingroup$ A more modern explanation. If you think the purpose of this site is to get questions answered, then you have come to the wrong place. The purpose of the site is to collect good math. The questions and answers are to be tools serving that end. $\endgroup$ Feb 14 at 15:31
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    $\begingroup$ Quora, yahoo answers and even some cheating websites I guess. $\endgroup$ Feb 14 at 16:01
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    $\begingroup$ "Are there any same level of expertise as users of this website?" Probably not. People with actual skills and knowledge are generally not interested in doing other people's homework for them, and are likely to leave such homework mills rather quickly, for the reasons outlined by @JyrkiLahtonen above. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Feb 14 at 18:24
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    $\begingroup$ @AmoebaProteus If anyone can ask any question and expect an answer, the empirical fact is that the service turns into either a homework mill or an echo chamber for crankery (or both). We are trying to keep that from happening, as was pointed out to you above. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Feb 14 at 19:11
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    $\begingroup$ @AmoebaProteus Experience has shown that there are some users who will post solutions to posts even if they are of very bad quality. In the absence of closures, they would have a field day. Then, from the perspective of posters, their chances of expecting an answer are very good, and moreover they need not spend much time making a good post. So you can see by imposing a minor cost on posts (that they be of sufficiently good quality, or else they cannot receive answers) we can get better content and squelch poor content producers. $\endgroup$
    – rschwieb
    Feb 14 at 21:52
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    $\begingroup$ If you would link to the question that was closed, Amoeba, we could have a look at it, and at how it was edited, and come to some decision about reverting the edit and/or reopening the question (or possibly explaining to you why it didn't meet site standards even before it was edited). Questions that have been closed can be reopened, even questions that have been deleted can be undeleted, it happens if the post gets edited up to standard or if enough users are convinced it was a mistake to close/delete it. $\endgroup$ Feb 15 at 6:05
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    $\begingroup$ I see that you have mentioned in a comment my edit to your question. I will point out that the only thing I did there was adding the (infinite-product) tag. @GerryMyerson I cannot be sure, but it's possible that it is about this question - it was already discussed on meta a bit. $\endgroup$ Feb 15 at 7:02
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    $\begingroup$ @AmoebaProteus You can simply have a look at the revision history (which is why I included link to it). In any case, if we have to discuss who edited what, we can continue in chat - so that we do not make this comment thread unnecessarily long. $\endgroup$ Feb 15 at 15:58

2 Answers 2

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It seems that the underlying assumption of the original question here is that questions on the main site are closed because they "don't make sense" to the close voters. This is an erroneous assumption.

The principle goal of the SE network is to create repositories of discoverable, searchable questions with high quality answers. The idea is that a user's typical interaction with the site will occur when they search for a question (using the on-site search, or a third-party search engine) and find that it has already been answered. The goal is for 90%+ of users to never have to ask a question, because their answer is already on the site.

(Note that this is distinct from other services, such as Quora, which seek to answer individual questions as they arise.)

Because the principle goal of the site is to create a searchable database, it is necessary to ensure the quality of that database—we don't want the noise to drown out the signal. As such, it is necessary to close (and delete) questions which are not a good fit for the site. There are a number of reasons why a question might be a poor fit:

  • the question may be too local (i.e. interesting only to the person asking the question—things like homework problems often fall into this category);
  • the question may provide too little detail for a future reader to find it via search;
  • the question might be a duplicate of something already asked;
  • the question may not provide enough context for answerers to understand what kind of answer is actually expected;
  • the question may be simply off-topic (i.e. not actually a question about mathematics);
  • and so on.

Hence questions are often closed for any one of myriad reasons. This is part of the basic functionality of the site.

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  • $\begingroup$ "It seems that the underlying assumption of the original question here is that questions on the main site are closed because they "don't make sense" to the close voters" No, I didn't mean to imply this, however reasons such as the one after the fourth bullet point may apply to some answerers but not others... or, as in the case of my question, they might later be edited, changing how much context there is. $\endgroup$ Feb 14 at 18:55
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    $\begingroup$ "...or, as in the case of my question, they might later be edited, changing how much context there is." Which is why it is also possible to reopen questions which have been closed. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Feb 14 at 19:07
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I'll give a simpler answer, it's because people don't usually specifically 'search' for questions when trying to answer them, it rather pops up in their feed. If a person who has intent to answer sees many questions poorly presented / frame/repeats, their morality of wanting to answer will decrease.

Side note:

If there was somehow a neuralink system which would automatically look at the things in our brain and find the answers for questioners (supposing some questioner would be interested in the non standard questions), then sure, I would agree with what you are saying.

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